Recently I traveled to Switzerland for work. I spent 10 glorious days in this fabulously beautiful country and ate and drank my way from town to town when I wasn’t working. Train travel is the way to go, especially in this picture perfect, postcard country. I visited Lucerne, Basel, and Lugano, with a few other’s in between. We drank German beers, ate Schnitzle often, sampled various pastry, charcuterie, and tartines. For an afternoon snack, I quickly learned to seek out pretzel rolls with butter as often as I could, particularly when in a train station. These fluffy, salty, rolls, smeared with butter, are one of the best things I have ever had. A simple soft pretzel with a salty & sour, brown finish. Sometimes they were stuffed with salami, or ham in the middle, but I preferred the plain version best. They didn’t come with traditional american accompaniments; cheese, yellow mustard, or cinnamon and sugar like the fattening and popularized “soft pretzel” in America often does. They were fancy and much tastier! I’ve missed them…until today!
Over lunch this past Friday my German friend, Andreas and I were talking about these tasty pretzel rolls. I told him I had wanted to make homemade pretzels for sometime. Since just returning home from Europe I knew I had to take a stab at the German Pretzel Rolls, called Laugenbrezel’s. Andreas quickly pulled up a recipe on his iPhone and I started plotting.
Here’s how I did it…
1T yeast (or 1 pkg)
2 tsp Sugar
1 1/4 C Warm Water
4 1/2 C Flour
2 tsp Salt
2 1/2 tbsp Butter (I used unsalted)
6 tbsp Baking Soda
As needed Salt Flakes
Dissolve 1 pkg yeast in 1/4c warm water & 2tsp sugar. (set aside for 5 minutes)
In a separate mixing bowl (or mixer w dough hook) combine 4 1/2 cups of flour with 2tsp of salt, add in 1 cup of warm water.
Combine yeast mixture with dry mixture and beat until dough has formed, add more water as needed to form dough.
Knead on a flour dusted board for 5 minutes. Let rest of 5 minutes, then mix in 2tbsp of room temperature butter. (I threw mine back in the mixture for a few seconds, then I kneaded it back to dough form)
Once dough has formed, place in a buttered bowl and let it rest for 1 hour in a warm environment (I turned on my oven to 175F and placed the bowl atop the stove so the warm vented air would rise).
After an hour, punch the dough down. Cut in to 12- 2oz sections. Gentle roll each 2 oz portion into a 1 foot long section, twist into pretzel shape and adhere the legs down with a dab of water. Once all pretzels have been formed, place pretzels atop a parchment paper baking sheet an put in the fridge for an hour. This will help them keep their shape and will make it easier to flash boil in the baking soda/water mixture.
After 45 minutes, preheat oven to 375F. Prepare the baking soda parboil mixture on a warm stove top. I used 3 cups of water and 3 oz of baking soda (or 6 tbsp’s)
Remove dough pretzels from the refrigerator and begin to dunk for 25-30 seconds, remove using a slotted spoon, place atop parchment paper and sprinkle with salt. ( I used various kinds for texture and taste; Hawaiian red salt, ocean rock salt, Himalayan smoked salt, and regular sea salt). Bake for 20 minutes at 375F.
The most common reason people do not bake real pretzels at home is because the parboil step just before the oven (similar to baking bagels) requires a quick dip (about 15-20 seconds) in a Lye and warm water mixture. Lye is a caustic chemical that can cause harm to the eyes or skin if it gets on you or in your eyes. When I was researching recipes to follow MANY of them had serious warnings about how to handle Lye. After some discussion about where to get Lye with a few different chef instructors at school, (mainly online was their answers) I decided to try the baking soda and a warm water bath method. It worked great and tasted even better, no need to go through the trouble of ordering Lye online!
This method is full proof, and the recipe works as long as you measure accurately, good luck!
Hope you enjoy!